Lysosomal amino acid transporter SLC38A9 signals arginine sufficiency to mTORC1

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Science  09 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6218, pp. 188-194
DOI: 10.1126/science.1257132

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Sensing amino acids at the lysosome

The mTORC1 protein kinase is a complex of proteins that functions to regulate growth and metabolism. Activity of mTORC1 is sensitive to the abundance of amino acids, but how the sensing of amino acids is coupled to the control of mTORC1 has been unclear. Wang et al. searched for predicted membrane proteins that interacted with regulators of mTORC1. They identified a protein currently known only as SLC38A9. Interaction of SLC38A9 with mTORC1 regulators was sensitive to the presence of amino acids. SLC38A9 has sequence similarity to amino acid transporters. Effects of modulation of SLC38A9 in cultured human cells indicate that it may be the sensor that connects the abundance of arginine and leucine to mTORC1 activity.

Science, this issue p. 188


The mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) protein kinase is a master growth regulator that responds to multiple environmental cues. Amino acids stimulate, in a Rag-, Ragulator-, and vacuolar adenosine triphosphatase–dependent fashion, the translocation of mTORC1 to the lysosomal surface, where it interacts with its activator Rheb. Here, we identify SLC38A9, an uncharacterized protein with sequence similarity to amino acid transporters, as a lysosomal transmembrane protein that interacts with the Rag guanosine triphosphatases (GTPases) and Ragulator in an amino acid–sensitive fashion. SLC38A9 transports arginine with a high Michaelis constant, and loss of SLC38A9 represses mTORC1 activation by amino acids, particularly arginine. Overexpression of SLC38A9 or just its Ragulator-binding domain makes mTORC1 signaling insensitive to amino acid starvation but not to Rag activity. Thus, SLC38A9 functions upstream of the Rag GTPases and is an excellent candidate for being an arginine sensor for the mTORC1 pathway.

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